Saturday, January 7, 2012

the monk is anyone who seeks to become one, single person ...

"Though addressing monks in his own monastery, St. Hesychios speaks to all of us on the contemplative path when he says, "One who has renounced such things as marriage, possessions and other worldly pursuits is outwardly a monk, but may not be a monk inwardly.  Only the person who has renounced obsessive thoughts is a true monk."   For Hesychios, then, a monk is not a geriatric vegetarian who mutters prayers, but any woman or man who seeks to become one, single person (the root meaning of "monk"), instead of the chameleon who constantly changes according to the color of demanding relationships ...

... It is not ultimately a question of embracing the externals of monasticism.  We may go off to retreat houses or enter a monastery, but unless we quieten the world of inner chatter, we never enter.  Countless numbers of monastics may live decades in a monastery without ever entering the monastery in the sense St. Hesychios or St. Theodoros intends, because we cling to chatter like a dog to to a bone ..."

- Martin Laird, "A Sunlit Absence - Silence, Awareness and Contemplation", Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 40


  1. What a challenge..
    I am also in the process of reading A Sunlit Absence.

  2. the only way i've found a way out of that is mantras or medication, and even then it's hard work and doesn't last very long

    i wonder how a bipolar monk would make out

    my thoughts have been a wirlygig for as long as i can remember

  3. I love this little book, J, reading just a bit every night before going to sleep.

    dante, I have a friend who more or less cured herself of bipolar with a Buddhist style of meditation. But I'm with you, it's not easy. I find mantras helpful, but even the most advanced teachers (ex. Cynthia Bourgeault) says that meditation practice "might" take the edge off of your neuroses. I'm hoping that at least I will be able to watch my neuroses and not be identified with them.

  4. Nice to know that I am in good company....I too am currently reading A Sunlit Absence as well as Rowan's A Silent Action.

    As I read all three comments from everyone my mind flashed to an interview that I heard early last year conducted by Tami Simon from Sounds True with James Finley, a psychologist and contemplative guide. In the interview Finley offers his sense of meditation from a Christian point view (but certainly not limited to that view) and in so doing touches nicely on some of the above comments/struggles. The interview is nearly an hour long and you can listen on line or download it for free. I believe you have to become a member but that is free as well for the level that includes the interviews. The Sounds True interview series is called Insights At The Edge and the interview was entitled Breathing God with James Finley on March 22, 2011. Well worth the few minutes it takes to sign up. The interview is a blessing really and an excellent companion to return to occasionally. Obviously, Google Sounds True.

    It's best that I don't try to say more as it's best if you hear it from someone who has the wisdom and experience necessary to broach such topics.

    Sorry for the long winded reference. Have a wonderful new year ahead.

  5. wasn't familiar with Laird's book. Thanks for the reference and the others in the comments.

  6. Thanks for the tip on the Finley interview, Robert. I will check it out. Finley has a way with language that, I think, captures the contemplative realm. Much like Laird.

    Rev. McKay - there's another book of Laird's that came before this one, "Into the Silent Land", though I'm not sure that it needs to be read first. They are like companion books. Laird is an excellent writer on things contemplative.

    The Rowan book is more challenging, intellectually, for me. I have to take my time and THINK while I read it - but he leads into some rich territory.

  7. Great great site. Thank you for dedicating so much time and energy to freeing more of Merton's spirit into the country and countries. He continues to make such a difference, for so many, religious and lay alike. A site I recently found displays Merton spirit as concentratedly as I've ever seen it. It's by a theologican in Leuven, Belgium:

    You'll love this, if you love Merton.

    Keep up the good work, Bradford


The Stuff of Contemplation (Joan Chittister)

Thomas Merton, Trappist, died December 10, 1968 Thomas Merton entered the Abbey of Gethsemane in Bardstown, Kentucky, at the age of twenty-s...